Lucky Pierre

Why walnut?

37 posts in this topic

A question for the gurus:  Why was walnut the wood or veneer of choice for our beloved speakers?  Why not other woods of near or equal beauty?

Just a question that pops into my mind every now and then.

Thanks!
 

Peter

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Probably because it looked good next to everyone's wood paneling.

Wasn't everything in the '70s made in that dull medium brown woodgrain color...and/or made to imitate it?

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41 minutes ago, Carnivore said:

Probably because it looked good next to everyone's wood paneling.

Wasn't everything in the '70s made in that dull medium brown woodgrain color...and/or made to imitate it?

Ha!  What doesn't look good next to wood paneling?

AFAIK, walnut was the wood of choice back to the 50's or earlier.  I just wonder why, with so many beautiful woods available, walnut became the cabinet wood of choice.  It is not like choosing a tone wood for instrument making.

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Longevity? Easy to work with? Can be polished?  Not sure but an interesting query 

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20 minutes ago, sc-em said:

Longevity? Easy to work with? Can be polished?  Not sure but an interesting query 

Same with oak, mahogany, beech, chestnut, maple, cherry, and so on and so forth...

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Just a thought. Didn't say I was an expert.  Google it!!

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26 minutes ago, sc-em said:

Just a thought. Didn't say I was an expert.  Google it!!

I have.  Alas, the google comes up empty.

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Odd!  Got me intrigued now. Closest decent wood to manufacturing site or shares in plantation? Density for sound qualities? Who knows?

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cost, perhaps.

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IMHO, the answer is pretty simple.  Walnut sells.

It is a beautiful wood that is not overbearing in color or pattern.  It is viewed by most as a premium wood.  It is more expensive than some of the other species mentioned above.  However, there is not such a price difference that would make it cost prohibitive for the masses.

Glitch

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Walnut is the most plentiful dark-toned wood in North America. Also one of only a few that can be replanted and grown quickly enough to be reasonably sustainable.

Your next choice would be cherry, but that would need to be stained if what is wanted is a darker tone.

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Thanks everyone.  Consider me enlightened.

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Lots of good responses here. Most of you know that classic AR's could be ordered in a variety of wood veneer species, as shown by the sample card attached. I suspect that many, or probably even most, AR speakers that were delivered to dealers' inventories were provided with the walnut veneer. It may be that walnut was primarily selected because of reasons mentioned: reasonably rapid tree growth; large, straight trunks with high harvest efficiency; and widespread availability throughout many central U.S. states. 

One other aspect is that dark wood, walnut in particular, was very much in vogue in 1960's mid-century furniture design in the USA. Much of this aesthetic was promulgated by large high-end contract furniture manufacturers such as Knoll and Herman Miller, who often used internationally acclaimed architects to design their lines of furniture systems. Acoustic Research had their Cambridge listening room located on Brattle Street, which was directly amidst the architectural offices of Walter Gropius, Jose Lluis Sert, and Benjamin Thompson, among others, and I believe that all of these entities were working in sync to create and promote a new American style for modern living.        

AR finish card 2.jpg

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checks all the boxes for the most part

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16 hours ago, ra.ra said:

Acoustic Research had their Cambridge listening room located on Brattle Street, which was directly amidst the architectural offices of Walter Gropius, Jose Lluis Sert, and Benjamin Thompson, among others, and I believe that all of these entities were working in sync to create and promote a new American style for modern living. 

Now *this* is an interesting tidbit!  I work just a few blocks from there.

I was also thinking last night that perhaps the choice of walnut over other woods may have been influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement of the 10's-20's.  Isn't the latter part of the A&C movement right around the time that home audio became available?

 

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LP, the links attached have further information about the two AR Music Rooms, in NYC and Cambridge (corner of Story St. and Brattle St.), as well as other Cambridge buildings central to the early AR story. In the first thread, the Design Research store is mentioned, and this was a unique company founded by Ben Thompson while he was still an original partner in The Architects Collaborative and before he founded his own firm, which was later responsible for the design of the groundbreaking concrete and glass building (across the street from the AR Room) to house the expanded store. DR, as the store was known, was primarily focused on providing a source for contemporary European (largely Scandinavian) homewares, textiles, and furnishings to American consumers. I am not certain if there was a direct connection or transition of ownership, but DR certainly spawned later retailers such as Crate and Barrel.

Thompson, Gropius, and Sert at various times each served as head of the architecture program at Harvard, and this little corner of Harvard Square was once a hotbed of contemporary design. A restaurant, The Harvest, originally created and owned by Thompson still exists, and I can certainly imagine Edgar Villchur and his lieutenants meeting there with the architects over martinis to discuss the issues of the day.

Much of the contemporary Danish furniture of the day was fabricated from teak, but in the U.S. walnut was more commonly used.     

http://www.classicspeakerpages.net/IP.Board/index.php?/topic/1612-the-old-ar-showroom/

http://www.classicspeakerpages.net/IP.Board/index.php?/topic/7119-miscellany-ar-the-early-years/

 

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As a student at Northeastern University in the 70's, I had a 2 term co-op job in the accounting dept. at Ben Thompson's firm. A lot of fun, and it was great working in Harvard Sq(where not long afterwards I worked at the Harvard Coop as a record buyer). And I remember that AR store, although I'm not sure I was ever in it. 

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Thanks ra.ra!  I will read through them later when I have time.

As an aside, there are a lot of unique Bauhaus homes in some of the surrounding communities, especially Lincoln.  A number of years ago I toured the Gropius House in Lincoln.  It is really cool.

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Yes, the Gropius house is pretty special - - am glad to see that several of you are familiar with these names.

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ra.ra, I just checked out the threads you posted.  The 23 Mount Auburn Street building is a block from where I work.  I thought I recognized that building.

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LP, it looks like the pics in the original thread may no longer be in proper order, but if you're familiar with the 'hood, you know the buildings. As the attached AR-1 label suggests, I believe this is where Henry Kloss had a rented loft space and began assembling the earliest AR speakers soon after he and Villchur launched the company. This info has been posted before, but here again is the historic summary written by Tom Tyson, and a listing from the 1954 Audiorama trade show held in NYC. 

AR-1 label 23 Mt Aub.jpg

B-L history by Tom Tyson.jpg

AR Audiorama.jpg

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Great stuff.  Thanks guys.  Love the photos of the buildings in the other old thread.  So odd they are so in a different direction in terms of use.  To think what took place historically there.

 

Is the old terminal location still there and occupied by something?

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Far be it from me to question AR guru Tom Tyson's knowledge of the history oF AR but the Baruch-Lang loudspeaker was designed by Dr. Jordan J. Baruch and [Mr.] Henry C. Lang of MIT. I'm thinking Baruch was a professor, Lang a grad student. Interestingly, they used a computer (in 1951!) to design the size and spacing of the tuning holes.

The Baruch-Lang was built by Kloss Industries (later it was sold by Ultrasonic) and housed four 5" full-range drivers. It sold for $24.95 in the plywood "utility" version or one could get the "deluxe" model "with a handsome frame and grill cloth for added beauty." It was available in Blonde Modern, Rich Mahogany, Chinese Black and Natural Unfinished" for "only $29.95."

I have 2. Kind of a cool bit of Kloss history. 

btw, “in attendance” at the trade show to tout “The Vilchur Loudspeaker System” were Vilchur and K, L and H ;)

-Kent

 

kloss2.jpg

Ultrasonic.jpg

label.jpg

10 Arrow St.jpg

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